Executive Order 13794, The Establishment of the American Technology Council, set forth an initiative to modernize the federal government’s information technology infrastructure and systems. Issued May 1, 2017, the order’s first task for the ATC was to define its strategy to modernize IT. The Report to the President on Federal IT Modernization was released for public comment in August.
The report, now in review after the public comment period, zeroes in on three areas:
Network modernization and consolidation seeks to maximize the secure use of cloud computing, modernize government-hosted applications, and securely maintain legacy systems. The report recommends several specific actions to drive modernization across the government, such as prioritizing high-risk, high value assets, identify solutions to overcome current barriers to cloud adoption, and consolidate acquisitions and management.
Shared services drive toward a consolidated IT model through the use of commercial cloud offerings. Some centralized capabilities, such as email and collaboration services, are ripe for a shared services consumption model. In today’s heightened threat environment, security services are also a key area for improvement and centralization across agencies.
Resourcing poses another challenging area for federal IT leaders. The report calls for prioritizing systems for modernization, and proposes that agencies pause or halt existing programs that sustain legacy systems rather than modernize or sunset them. The report also suggests a “cut and invest” funding strategy to move funding away from legacy systems and toward modern technologies, cloud solutions, and shared services.
The motivation to modernize is clear. Technology outpaces the ability of such a large IT enterprise to quickly respond to new innovations. Yet, without keeping up, existing systems become less economical and less secure.
As a leader in government IT who recognizes the ongoing need to upgrade and modernize systems and services, where do you begin? The cloud-first policy still confounds many federal IT leaders. The breadth and depth of legacy IT systems seem insurmountable, yet CIOs and IT leaders need to take that first step and begin navigating the path ahead. The American Technology Council has now laid the groundwork; now it’s up to you to head on down the road.
It’s more than a journey. As Henry David Thoreau proclaimed, “Every walk is a sort of crusade.” To modernize today’s federal IT is indeed a challenge – a crusade, but one that increases in urgency every day because of the size and scope of federal IT.
The key to success? Get going.